Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – This Friday night’s NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k at Stafford Speedway will serve as the biggest SK Modified® race of the 2021 season with over $30,000 in total posted awards and the race winner guaranteed to take home $5,000.
Ronnie Williams, driver of the #50 Les’s Auto Center Ford, will be looking for not only his third career win in the extra distance classic, but he will also be looking to kick his 2021 season into high gear.
Williams heads into this year’s NAPA SK 5k with 1 win, 2 top-5, and 7 top-10 finishes through the first 8 races, which puts him in 5th place in the SK Modified® points, 46 points behind Stephen Kopcik. While a win and 7 top-10 finishes in 8 races would be a good if not great season for most drivers and teams, it’s not quite the level of success that Williams and the #50 team have become accustomed to in the SK Modified® division.
“Of course we’d like to have more wins at this point, but we’ve started off way worse the last 2 times we’ve won the championship so I’m not really too concerned,” said Williams. “We usually start heating up around July and August and I know we have a good game plan going forward. I don’t think we’ve had the finishes we’ve wanted and some of that hasn’t been our fault but I don’t think we’re in a bad spot. What’s the saying, there’s no better time than the present, so we might as well start doing it now.”
If there is any race on the schedule that will help Williams and the #50 team get back to their winning ways, it’s the NAPA SK 5k. In 2018 Williams entered the NAPA SK 5k with 1 win, 6 top-5 and 7 top-10 finishes and his 5k victory began a streak of 5 consecutive podium finishes that helped him claim the championship. In 2019 Williams headed into the NAPA SK 5k with 1 win, 3 top-5, and 6 top-10 finishes and his SK 5k victory that season was the second race of a 6-race streak of finishing on the podium that helped bring him from 6th in the standings into the lead and he would go on to win the championship that year. As Williams points out, his 2021 numbers closely parallel his championship winning seasons of 2018 and 2019 and he is not worried at all about his on-track performances.
“I feel our chances are pretty good of winning the race again,” said Williams. “We’ve had good results the last three years with two wins and a fourth. We’re pretty strong and I think we had the fastest car at the end of the race last year, we just needed a caution. That race didn’t play out how we thought it would so we’ll see if things work out for us and hopefully we can win the race for a third time. We might not have the finishes we want but the stats don’t show what kind of car we’ve brought to the track every week and we’ll get things turned around.””
The NAPA SK 5k is also a race where Williams has excelled, no matter if he was driving his family owned car, or the #50 Les Skowyra owned car. Williams has started all 7 previous editions of the NAPA SK 5k and aside from a 23rd place finish in the inaugural SK 5k in 2014, Williams has posted a top-6 finish in each of the subsequent 6 NAPA SK 5k races.
“I’m not really sure why I’ve had success in this race,” said Williams. “I’ve always had good cars for the 5k race and I do enjoy the longer distance races. I wish there were more extra distance races. The longer races fit my driving style and it’s more strategic than a sprint for 40 laps. Doing all the Tour type races definitely helps keep the car under you for 100 laps so we’ll see if it’s in the cards for us again this year. The 5k has always been a good race for us and I don’t see why that would change any this season. We always bring fast cars to the track, it’s just a matter of having the race play out for us.”
With his stellar record in the NAPA SK 5k, Williams knows exactly what it takes to come out on top after 100 laps of green flag racing. When it comes to a race strategy, Williams has a plan in mind, but says he and the #50 team have to deal with things as they happen on the fly during the race.
“The first year we won the race, our strategy was to get to the front as fast as we could,” said Williams. “The second year we won it was kind of lay back and wait. Basically, you go into the race with a set plan but one lap is all it takes for that plan to go out the window. So I’m not sure what this year will hold. It seems a lot of guys are very aggressive this season so we’ll see how things play out. I think it’s going to be the normal guys who you have to beat. Keith [Rocco] is always strong in this race and I think he had top-5 finishes in all of the 5k starts. Chase [Dowling] is probably going to be strong, Mikey [Christopher] is always strong, and it’s the usual guys we’ll have to contend with.”
The 8th Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5K is set for this Friday, June 25. Tickets for the NAPA SK 5K are available online at StaffordSpeedway.com/tickets and will also be available at the gates day of show. General Admission tickets are $30.00 for adults, $10.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $35.00 for all ages and pit passes are $45.00 with a valid 2021 Stafford Competition License and $50.00 without a Stafford license. If you are unable to attend the event, tune into the live stream on FloRacing, the official streaming partner of Stafford Speedway.